Victorian government supporting Echuca tourism businesses

By Anna McGuinness

THE Victorian Government is putting Echuca tourism operators on life support as visitors from Melbourne are locked our of the region.

On Friday the government announced a $534 million business support package which includes a $40 million capped fund for regional tourism businesses to cover the costs of refunds.

Eligible operators will be able to claim up to $225 per night for up to five nights for every room cancelled due to the return of stage three restrictions in Melbourne, provided they refund the booking in full.

It also includes marketing campaigns to boost future region to region visitation while Melbourne is locked down.

Echuca Moama Tourism chief executive Kathryn Mackenzie welcomed the announcement.

“This is amazing. It’s great the government is putting money into regional tourism – it’s our lifeblood,” she said.

“Pre-COVID-19 it was bringing over a million dollars a day to this community, and that means jobs, vibrancy and choice for locals,” she said.

Ms Mackenzie said the past few months had been really tough for Echuca-Moama tourism operators

“It’s been really challenging with the constant change, the shutdowns, visitors who are cautious of travelling and the challenge of balancing having visitors and looking after the community,” she said.

“I think our operators here are doing an amazing job managing what they’ve got to.”

The support is only available for Victorian businesses and Ms Mackenzie said she’d like to see similar support for Moama counterparts.

“I wish NSW would do the same. They’re struggling the most at the moment because of the border closure,” she said.

Murray River Council economic development and tourism manager John Harvie said tourism operators along the NSW border had reported an 80 per cent drop in turnover compared to the same time last year.

“The Victorian Government has reacted very quickly to provide additional assistance to struggling Victorian businesses,” he said.

“The NSW Government has not announced any additional funding to assist business through the COVID-19 border closures, which are adversely impacting businesses on the NSW side of the border.

“In NSW, the only assistance available currently is through the small business recovery grant which provides up to $3,000 to assist small businesses and not-for-profits relaunch their operations.”.

Echuca Moama Accommodation Association president Grant Casbolt said the recent re-lockdown of Melbourne had impacted businesses.

“Any package is great and much needed, however I’m still looking through it because we’re seeking clarification on some items,” he said.

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